Feds Spend $42,676 Studying Sexting by College Girls

Hypothesis: Men and women interpret sexting differently

March 13, 2015

A nearly $50,000 federal study is examining the sext messages of college girls to determine whether sending racy pictures makes them more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

"This project will address how sexting (the exchange of sexually suggestive texts or pictures via mobile phone) and problematic alcohol use together increase the risk for risky sexual behavior and sexual assault among college women," read a grant issued last year.

The study argues that there is a "causal model" between drinking, sexting, and sexual assault, because men and women interpret sext messages differently

The project also theorizes that impulsive college women are more likely to sext, and thus more likely to have risky sex.

The grant reads: "The main study hypotheses are: (1) Sexting mediates the relationship between alcohol use and [both risky sexual behavior] and sexual assault among college women; (2) Impulsivity-related traits and sex-related alcohol expectancies prospectively predict alcohol use, and subsequent sexting, risky sexual behavior, and sexual assault among college women."

A third hypothesis posits: "males and females differentially interpret implicit messages in sexting and alcohol use behaviors, leading to increased risk for sexual assault."

The research will follow college girls for two semesters, and examine male and female college students "interpretations of sexting encounters." The results will be based on self-report data, daily diary entries, and "text message phone review."

The project, which has an end date of May 2016, has cost taxpayers $42,676 so far.

The study hopes to lead to "mobile phone-based prevention techniques" to prevent sexual assault.

Allyson L. Dir, a graduate student at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, is leading the project.

Dir’s previous research on "Sextpectancies" found that men report more "positive expectancies" from sexting than women.